Gate City Acres Mini Golf is an indoor, immersive masterpiece
On July 16, the Center for Visual Artists unveiled its artist-created mini-golf course called, Gate City Acres. This installation will run through Aug. 18, and people of all ages are invited to play.
Gate City Acres is the brainchild of guest curator Harry Turfle, a visual artist, writer, and Pace Communications senior editor.
“We’re lucky that our company has a ‘Day of Service’ program that allows employees to take a day off to work on a service project,” Turfle said. “When I was organizing Gate City Acres, I reached out to other creatives at Pace Communications to create our team golf hole.”
Devon McKnight, CVA gallery director, and artist collaborated with Turfle on Gate City Acres along with support from Corrie Lisk-Hurst, the CVA’s executive director. Turfle said he and McKnight worked together to find the artists and to figure out who would work in each space while exploring the possibilities and limitations of each hole.
“Corrie, Harry and I are excited to provide this first pay-to-play transformation into a welcoming space that people are used to seeing outside that says, ‘look what artists can do and what art can be,’” McKnight said. “We are bringing the art to the people and the people to the art.”
“All holes are unique, playable and holes-in-one are possible,” Lisk-Hurst said. “However — partial spoiler alert — on some holes, taking more swings may be a lot more fun. Art is everywhere -— it’s not just paintings in frames on a gallery wall. This exhibit is all about bringing people in to experience art in a new way and to help CVA fund a variety of unique exhibits and programs throughout the year.”
The artists behind each hole include Michael Clapp (Hole 1), Joey Seawell and Jon Black (Hole 2), Andrew Duke and Derrick Dickens (Hole 3), Janie Ledford and Phil Fuentes (Hole 4), Pace Communications team Tommy Alderson, Eric Hughes, Kemp Allen, Erin Villareal, Emily Clancy and Annemarie Tankersley (Hole 5), Rose Field (Hole 6), Mark Dixon and Tom Dawson (Hole 7), Sebastian Lindquist and Brittney May (Hole 8), and Karen and Bob Niemczyk (Hole 9).
Some of the artists shared their process and inspiration behind their assigned mini-golf hole.
“Where I try to begin in any project is to find an essential element and truth in material as in my work in my firm,” Michael Clapp, architect and founder of Schemata Studio, said. “The hole I designed exudes that same mantra. Materials and found objects from well-known sites are stripped of ornamental distraction. We wanted to be sort of tactical in the design and subtle in the way the concept influences the strategy of play.”
Karen Niemczyk, an artist at Interpolations Studios with a knack for installations involving light, focuses on electronics and specifically for this project, music and lights.
“My work is very serious,” she said. “I had a great time working with my husband, Bob, who was involved in the creative process for the first time. He re-engineers everything I do, utilizing his experience working with Volvo Trucks. Our hole would require a miracle to get in one shot, but will be a lot of fun trying to do so.”
Mark Dixon, artist and professor of sculpture and design at Guilford College, said he and Tom Dawson knew they wanted to find an alternate way to hit the ball in and drew their inspiration from a classic arcade game.
“Like a pinball machine with a long shoot and music in a conceptual innovation,” Dixon said. “The worse you are at putt-putt, the more entertaining our hole is. It’s tricky work to design something that is resilient to foot traffic and thousands of repetitions.”
Turfle said he has always wanted to design a mini-golf hole himself and turned that desire into helping others create an entire course. He said artists want to create new worlds, not just paintings on the wall.
Turfle said art-inspired mini-golf courses have become a trend across the country, with significant places such as the Walker Museum using it as a way to fundraise for nonprofit art spaces where artists create a fun, imaginative mini-golf course unlike any ever seen. He said people line up around the block for it because “the experience is unique and only available for a brief time.”
Turfle said that the maker movement is bringing an expansion of art and that Gate City Acres includes “amazing artists as well as nontraditional artists such as landscapers, architects, engineers, and wood-workers.”
The artists worked together for three to four months, and Turfle said it has been a fun and challenging collaborative effort. “They asked questions like, ‘how to get a ball through a hole,’ ‘how to make it fun’ and ‘how to make it happen using materials never used before,’ all while taking it out of context and making it work inside of an art gallery,” Turfle said.
McKnight said that the CVA is also pleased to feature an exhibition of Harry Blair’s golf art in the Pro-shop. She said that Blair was very supportive.
“Thanks to Harry, we had another armature to make it happen.”
Turfle said that he really believes in the Greensboro CVA. He used to teach at Bennett College as a curator and learned that,
“You have to have more than just a fundraiser, you have to have a fun-raiser!” He said McKnight had been reaching out to the community and local artists, “like no one ever had before, and CVA is really blossoming this year.”
“My hope for artist mini-golf is that it’s so successful that CVA may see it as a summer opportunity to do a longer run next year when people will know it and are more involved with it,” Turfle said. “Plus new artists will have the opportunity to create the holes. It’s so huge. We’d like to see it have a second life elsewhere.”
Turfle, who moved here from New York and came to North Carolina to get his Master’s degree in fine arts, said many people don’t realize that mini-golf was invented in Pinehurst, North Carolina. According to NCpedia, James Barber, owner of the Barber Steamship Lines of New York completed an 18-hole golf course he called “Thistle Dhu” on the grounds of his home in 1919. It remains a putting course in front of the main clubhouse, free to resort guests as part of a trendy tourist destination, and it turned 100 years old this year.
“I love America,” Turfle said. “Mini golf was invented here for a reason. It’s for everyone. It’s simple and goofy and deeply weird and creative – like the best art. Art is about expressing what’s deep and true, with all of our problems as a country, there’s still a place to be yourself and to find that truth and beauty in surprising places. Art provides a place for that.”
CVA will be selling T-shirts and handing out free popsicles at Gate City Acres. The mini-golf course will be available for private rental, birthday parties, corporate functions and special events.
McKnight said the CVA offers 15% off discounts for groups of 10 or more. (Larger groups should call ahead to reserve their preferred times.)
TERRY RADER is a freelance writer, poet, singer/songwriter, wellness herbalist, flower essences practitioner and owner of Paws n’ Peace o’ Mind cat/dog/house sitting.
July 16-Aug. 18, Gate City Acres Mini-Golf, tee times on a first-come, first-serve basis, free admission to children aged 5 and under, $5 for ages 6-17, $9 for ages 18 and over, Greensboro Cultural Center, Center for Visual Artists, 200 N. Davie St, Greensboro, Hours: Mon. closed, Tues.-Fri., noon-8 p.m., Sat., noon -5 p.m. and Sun., 2 p.m.-5 p.m., (336) 333-7475 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for group rates and reservations.